Leland Yee placed 3rd for Sec’y of State. Really.

Leland Yee, the Democratic state Senator from San Francisco indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking bribes and conspiring to broker an international arms deal, finished third in a field of eight candidates for Secretary of State in Tuesday’s primary.

Leland Yee (photo by Karl Mondon)No, really. As of now, 287,590 votes have been counted for Yee – a number that will rise at least slightly as registrars around the state tally the final wave of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. Yee had announced he was dropping out of the race to be California’s top elections and political transparency watchdog right after he was charged with crimes that could put him in prison for life, but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.

My first takeaway is that it sucks to be one of the five candidates who came in behind him. I’d call and ask them, but I’ll have mercy; if I were one of them, I’d be hung over for days and not taking calls.

I see a few possible explanations for Yee’s strong finish, and I suppose it’s probably a mix of several:

    1.) Some voters have a perverse sense of humor, and don’t care much who the Secretary of State will be, anyway.
    3.) Some voters live under rocks, without access to the internet, radio, television or newspapers. Then again, he still came in third in San Francisco, where news of his arrest and indictment was practically inescapable.

That point leads to my second takeaway, which is that the real winner in this primary election is James Lassart, Yee’s attorney. He must feel at least a little better today about his future prospects in picking a jury.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Marga

    Whatever the reason, I think it’s one more reason to re-evaluate our representative democratic system of government.

  • JohnW

    Perhaps it was the gun rights crowd, impressed by Yee’s conversion from gun control advocate to gun trafficker.

  • JohnW

    I truly sympathize with the comment, but what would you suggest instead.

  • Marga

    I don’t know, but I would like to start some experiments with direct democracy, perhaps at the city level.

    I think Eric Swalwell was onto something when he talked about letting Congressmembers vote remotely. If they can, there is no reason for people not to be able to do it – instant referendums, if you will. We could start with matters such as “should the Police be allowed to install surveillance cameras” and see how that goes.

  • Marga – you think Swalwell was onto something good? That’s… remarkable! 😉

  • JohnW

    Ah, sort of like American Idol!

  • Marga

    Ha ha. The thing with half-baked ideas is that if you bake them completely, you may be on to something.
    But don’t confuse the fact that I dislike Swalwell’s lack of ethics, and his willingness to do anything to stay in Congress, with my inability to appreciate the things he does well. The problem, however, is that he will always have to have someone keeping him on his toes to not cross to the dark side – given his own instincts. I can’t imagine anyone will run against him in ’16, so will he get over-confident and lean further to the right, or will he stay left to avoid a challenge in ’18?

  • Elwood

    In the immortal words of P.T. Barnum:

    “Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

  • RRSenileColumnist

    “Shrimp Boy is thrilled by Leland’s success. He is confident Mr Lee will
    resume his career after a hopefully brief hiatus.”
    Reported by Sum Ting Wong, Senior Hiatus Reporter

  • @SLtalk:disqus, Congressman Swalwell is a LIBERAL. L-I-B-E-R-A-L. A “moderate” liberal perhaps? Sure. But a liberal nonetheless.

    You’re right, though — MOBILE Congress Act, which is hardly a half-baked idea, definitely could prove worthwhile.

  • Marga

    You’ve been reading 1984 again, right? 🙂

    It’s a half-baked idea because it doesn’t realize its actual potential: to use technology to replace representative democracy with direct democracy. If you can vote remotely, why limit the voting just to Representatives? Why not let all citizens cast a vote?

    I wrote about this on my blog when Swalwell first proposed it: http://sanleandrotalk.voxpublica.org/2014/04/16/taking-swalwells-voting-app-proposal-one-step-further/

  • @joshrichman:disqus, you’re spot on about jury selection — apparently ol’ Uncle Leland Yee did quite well in rural, Northern California counties as well where turnout (percentage wise) was a bit higher than more populous, diverse counties down south.

    Not a lot of folks realize that because Uncle Leland’s case is venued in federal court in San Francisco, the potential jury pool stretches all the way south down the central coast to Salinas, inland to just shy of Sacramento/Stockton, and north along the coast to the Oregon border. Plenty of “rubes” to comprise a jury from counties with virtually no access or connection to the San Francisco Bay Area media market.